Attitudes to language in literary sources: beyond post-colonialism in nigerian literature

Emma Dawson*, Pierre Larrivée

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    All societies display attitudes to (varieties of) languages that tell us about the relative status of the groups that are associated to them. One method to document these is the systematic study of public discourses, including literary production. How (varieties of) languages are used, mentioned and characterised in a literary work tells us about their social status, and any change in this status should therefore be followed by changes in judgements on languages. This is demonstrated by the present paper with reference to the language attitudes in Nigeria, on the basis of two iconic Nigerian novels 2004 Purple Hibiscus and in 1958 classic postcolonial Things Fall Apart, separated by nearly fifty years. Ibo as well as Pidgin, Nigerian and European Englishes are presented in Purple Hibiscus in nuanced complementary configurations. A strong axiological polarisation is by contrast offered in Things Fall Apart between Ibo speakers and Ibo interpreters who are presented as cruel and ridiculous traitors siding with the English colonising power whose language, curiously, is not commented upon. Showing how a replicable method applied to language judgements can document social organisation and change, these results validate the view that the Nigerian society and culture has moved beyond the historically situated postcolonialist movement to embrace a globalised paradigm.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)920-932
    Number of pages13
    JournalEnglish Studies
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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